Twelve marine and environmental studies graduate students from the Middle East
and Europe are taking part in a two-week Mediterranean research project off the
shores of La Spezia, Italy, to protect the unique ecosystem shared by countries
that might not typically have relations.
The project, which began on
Sunday and is called “Environmental Impacts Know No Boundaries,” hosts graduate
students from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Malta, Lebanon, Tunisia, Italy,
Greece, Turkey and the UK, according to Israeli conservation NGO EcoOcean, one
of the sponsoring organizations behind the venture.
together with Italian organization Environmental Ocean-Team, as part of an
overall initiative to bring the region’s scientists together to find solutions
for an often-threatened ocean habitat, the Israeli group said in a
Providing students with a realtime sea laboratory to perform
studies and explorations, the project is being hosted by the Italian National
Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic
“Environmental issues many times transcend national borders
and political restrictions,” said Daniel Schaeffer, director of EcoOcean, in a
statement. “To develop and protect marine and coastal ecosystems, such as within
and around the Mediterranean Sea, we must promote cooperation in marine research
and management between nations.”
The first week is entirely landbased and
includes a string of workshops on different topics connected to marine science,
Schaeffer explained to The Jerusalem Post by phone on Thursday, from
“The students are giving each afternoon their own presentations on
their own topics of research,” he said.
The majority of the students are
currently pursuing doctorates, while a few are pursuing master’s degrees. All
are enjoying learning from each other in this “neutral” and “comfortable”
Italian setting, according to Schaeffer.
Despite coming from very
different cultures, the students live together in the same rooms, four students
per room, and eat dinner together. While politics has naturally been discussed
at the table, the subject has not been a deterrent for scientific cooperation,
“This is our pilot project, and up till now it has been
fantastic. It has been quite incredible,” Schaeffer said. “You get capable,
intelligent people sitting together – sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing
about things – but it’s done through talk and discussion.”
When the week
of lectures concludes with a trip to the aquarium of Genoa on Thursday
afternoon, the students and some of the professors will embark on their
searesearch journey this weekend.
Six students will board each boat, and
have the opportunity to change boats – each of which will have different focuses
– during the week, according to Schaeffer.
“The impression is that
they’re really hitting it off nicely,” said Prof.
Sven Beer of Tel Aviv
University, who accompanied the students to Genoa on Thursday. “They’re happy
and they’re learning a lot – they’re also learning about each other’s
Research on the first boat will be led jointly by the Center
for Support and Testing of the Italian Navy and by Prof. Gianni Pavan from the
Interdisciplinary Center for Bioacoustics of the University of Pavia, who is
studying the migration of sea mammals in the Ligurian Sea between Corsica and
The second boat will involve “basic water profiling, very
scientific type of work,” as part of research conducted by Dr. John Allen of the
National Oceanography Center of Southampton, in the UK, Schaeffer
Other researchers involved in the project include Dr. Roberto
Meloni, retired head of the Italian Antarctic Expedition and Environmental Ocean
Team; Dr. Paola Picco of the ENEA; Dr. Ilana Berman-Frank of Bar Ilan
University; and Emilio Tesi, director of Environmental Ocean
Berman-Frank and Picco, along with Beer from Tel Aviv University,
coordinated the program.
“Science doesn’t understand what a political
border is,” Schaeffer said. “This is basically the idea behind this whole
project. Pollution or air or wind or sea currents, don’t stop when they reach
the Israeli-Lebanese border.”